The Abbotsbury Swannery is a nesting colony of mute swans near Weymouth in Dorset. Swans generally nest in isolated pairs and there are only a handful of known nesting colonies in the world. Abbotsbury is the largest group of swans on earth.
What makes the Abbotsbury Swannery unique is that it is managed by man - and has been for at least 600 years. The first swan count at Abbotsbury was carried out in 1591, when there were 410 adults and 90 young swans. The swans are not tame, and they do not have clipped wings, but visitors can walk safely through the heart of the nesting colony, to which the swans return, year after year, to mate and raise their young.
Usually at Abbotsbury there are about 150 pairs nesting at any one time. This year, because of the cold winter, nesting and egg-laying are a few weeks later than usual. The female swans, the pens, lay an egg a day for five or six days, with the male, or cob, standing guard over the nest. The cygnets will hatch after about six weeks.